Publication: Fast Casual

Loitering: Critics on both sides of the fence slam limited-service chains

March 14, 2014

By Joseph Bona

Chalk it up to the law of unintended consequences. Forward-thinking limited-service chains have spent the past few years searching for ways to ramp up the customer experience — up to and including encouraging people from all walks of life to use their stores as hangouts and even Wi-Fi-enabled “third place”-style offices. But now the likes of Starbucks and McDonald’s face a chorus of criticism from camps with opposite agendas.

On one side are those who are outraged by the decision these chains have made to oust certain loiterers. A Jan. 27 article in The New York Times (“The Food May Be Fast, but These Customers Won’t Be Rushed”) called attention to the trend. It cited PR nightmares such as the Starbucks store that kicked out a group of deaf people who were not ordering enough coffee, and the McDonald’s restaurant that ushered out a group of older Koreans, sparking a worldwide boycott in the bargain.

Don Mitchell, a professor at Syracuse University, was among those none too pleased. He told the newspaper: “Taking up space is a way to claim a right to be, a right to be visible, to say, ‘We’re part of the city too.’ […]

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